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- Eugene Laverty recovers from a poor start to claim a remarkable win on his Voltcom Crescent Suzuki debut
- The victory marks Suzuki's first in WSBK since 2010 and Crescent Racing's maiden triumph
- Melandri holds off Guintoli for second, while Sykes can only manage seventh
Eugene Laverty has given Suzuki its first World Superbike Championship victory since 2010 after an exceptional charge up the order in the first World Superbike race of the season at Phillip Island.
The Irishman, making his debut for the Voltcom Crescent team, had qualified well in fourth place but a poor getaway would see him slip to seventh position and cede more than four seconds to the lead group in the initial laps.
However, after powering through the chasing pack, Laverty steadily reeled in the leaders to pounce with just a handful of laps remaining to claim a lead he would extend to the chequered flag.
Indeed, despite his strong grid position, the likelihood of a Laverty-Suzuki win appeared to have been scuppered within seconds of the race getting underway as a tardy start left him swallowed up in the pack through the initial bends.
With Laverty ending the opening lap in seventh place, it was pole man – and former Aprilia counterpart – Sylvain Guintoli that got the jump at the start, heading off new team-mate Marco Melandri and Davide Giugliano into turn one.
From here, it didn't take long for the top three to splinter away from a chasing pack comprising of Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies, Tom Sykes, the slow-starting Laverty and Loris Baz. Swiftly Laverty began to work his way up the order, but though he was up to fourth place by lap five, more than four seconds separated him from the leaders.
By this stage, Laverty was the only Suzuki left on the circuit as team-mate Alex Lowes saw his race end early with a crash that left the Briton – already suffering with a dislocated shoulder – hobbling off the circuit. Toni Elias and Leon Haslam would also tumble out early on.
Back at the front, the top three would hold station in the order of Guintoli-Melandri-Giugliano for the first-half of the race, the trio staying static despite the latter giving his countryman persistent pressure.
However, they could not be prepared for the searing pace of Laverty behind them, the Irishman using the clear air ahead of him to takes chunks of time from his rivals and get back onto their tail by lap 13.
Wasting no time in making his presence felt once there, Laverty immediately pounced, passing Melandri for third (after Giugliano had finally passed him moments earlier) on lap 13 and then Giugliano for second on lap 15. Latching onto the rear end of Guintoli, Laverty's relentless charge would see him slip up the inside of his former team-mate at turn two to nose ahead for the first time.
From here, Laverty was not to be denied, quickly establishing his advantage as Guintoli faded into the clutches of Melandri, the Italian having retaken third from Giugliano, who was suffering with tyre issues in the closing laps.
In the remaining five laps, Laverty would extend his advantage to three seconds, giving him ample opportunity to coast across the line for a truly memorable win, one that marks a debut WSBK success for Crescent Racing and the first in 95 races for the Suzuki brand.
Behind him, Melandri would get the better of long-time leader Guintoli to secure a psychological edge over his new team-mate in their first race together, while Giugliano had to contend with fourth place in what remains one of the 1199's most convincing race performances nonetheless.
Never a factor in the lead fight, the chasing pack made up for in entertainment what it lost in significance as Sykes, Baz and Rea disputed fifth, sixth and seventh.
After repeated overtaking passes, it was Kawasaki's Baz that would eventually prevail over Rea, while Sykes endured a fairly dismal start to his title defence in seventh having never once looked entirely comfortable on the ZX-10R.
Despite an excellent start that saw him up to fourth from 11th on the grid early on, Davies couldn't sustain the pace as he faded to a lonely eighth position, almost 20secs behind team-mate Giugliano.
Ducati's frustrations were compounded further when Niccolo Canepa – who has dominated the EVO category all week – lost out to main rival David Salom for class honours, the pair trading position continuously before the Spaniard got the edge on the drag to the finish line in ninth.
BMW Italia sub Glenn Allerton picked up a noteworthy third in class and 11th overall, ahead of Fabien Foret, while Claudio Corti ensured MV Agusta scored on its WSBK debut with a solid run to 13th. Jeremy Guarnoni and Sheridan Morais completed the points' paying positions aboard their EVO Kawasakis.